Log in

No account? Create an account
10 December 2011 @ 10:11 pm
Top Ten Episodes of Doctor Who (According to Me) #1-5  
I am finally getting around to ~revealing~ my top 5 episodes of Doctor Who. It's probably pretty obvious to those who know me, but let's pretend this is suspenseful.

#5 Turn Left by Russel T Davies

Let me start out by acknowledging that there IS some problematic Orientalism in this episode with the ~evil~ Asian mystic/fortune teller. Having acknowledged that, there is still a LOT to love about this episode. I mean the WW2 parallels are a bit heavy handed, but this episode does a good job of exploring the different ways that humanity reacts when faced with crisis situations. RTD is strongest when he is writing humans and their emotions, and this episode showcases that.

This episode is the pinnacle of Donna's story. The final two-parter is so full of the other companions that she doesn't get a moment to shine as herself (sorry, but I don't really count the Doctor-Donna) in that story. THIS episode is Donna's moment of glory, and it highlights one of my favorite themes about the RTD era. Even ordinary people can become heroes. Donna isn't anyone special. She doesn't have any special skills or experiences. But she is still brave enough to sacrifice her own life in order to save the world, even though she's terrified. Donna just needed someone to believe in her. In a universe without the Doctor, that person was Rose. Post "Journey's End", there is hope that her family will take on the role.

Moving on to Rose, I think she's fantastic here. It's clear that in her time in Pete's World (which seems to have been a few years), she's taken the skills she learned and talents she discovered with the Doctor and developed them further. The leadership she showed in "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit" is displayed again here, and we see that cleverness she always had put to use in working with UNIT to figure out how to use the Tardis. Now, I don't believe for a second that Rose did any of the calculations or whatever to figure out how to use the Tardis to create the rudimentary time machine, but Rose is smart and has always been able to make connections in addition to being the resident Tardis Expert, so I have no doubt she was instrumental in that project. In a lot of ways, Rose really has become the Doctor in a universe where there isn't one, and the episode is definitely trying to draw those parallels. She's grown so much since she was that directionless teenager we met in "Rose". She's become a completely self-possessed, confident and capable woman.

#4 Midnight by Russel T Davies

This episode works on so many levels in spite of the absence of Donna or rather it works BECAUSE of Donna's absence. This episode shows us why the Doctor needs his human companions. Without Donna there to smooth things over and normalize him, the other passengers on the bus are scared of him and put off by him. The passengers here are just SO human. We only get one 45 minute episode with them, but in that brief time, the audience is able to understand who they are and how they relate to each other. Fantastic character writing.

Although the creature on Midnight is scary, the creature isn't the big bad here. The creature is unsettling because we never see it or ever find out what it is. The way in which the creature can control someone and repeat people talking, then synch up with people's speech before taking their voices certainly creates a creepy atmosphere. But the truly scary part of this episode are the passengers on the space bus. The mob mentality and the way that the passengers let fear turn them into people who would kill someone is real in a very scary way. I love that while RTD does celebrate the creativity of humanity, he is also very adept at writing the darkness inside humanity.

#3 Human Nature/Family of Blood by Paul Cornell

"Midnight" explored the Doctor's character by removing his companion from the equation. These episodes explore the Doctor by taking the Doctor out of the equation. David Tennant really gets to shine in these episodes as John Smith. John Smith is the shy academic, awkward around women, who doesn't really know how to deal with everything that is happening to him. That scene where he breaks down, wondering if he's real is completely brilliant. I've also been known to tear up in the scene where Joan has to convince John to become the Doctor again.

On the topic of Joan, I think she's a fascinating character. Yes, she's racist. If I met her in 2011, I wouldn't want to be friends with her. However, I still think she's a really compelling character in this historical and narrative context. Her husband died and she never expected to find love again. Watching her fall for John Smith is so sad because as viewers we know he isn't going to stick around. The scene where she confronts the Doctor, but care barely look at him because he looks like the man she can grown to love, but clearly isn't him is some really fantastic writing. Then the Doctor, full of guilt, asks Joan to come along with him. I think he wants to believe that he could love someone again, but more importantly I think he feels guilty for breaking this woman's heart because he went into hiding. But the BEST part of the scene is where Joan calls him out and says that all those people would not have died if the Doctor hadn't decided to hide there. The Doctor sometimes leaves destruction behind him, and he doesn't look back.

Martha is also pretty amazing in this episode, taking care of John Smith's useless ass. She is a woman of color trapped in an extremely racist society and has to put up with some really awful treatment, so she is totally justified in having those private moments of weakness in the Tardis. One of my favorite Martha moments is when she figures out that something isn't right with Jenny and confirms it by mixing up that gross concoction.

Add in some creepy living scarecrows, some poignant scenes of young boys with guns and the dramatic irony that the audience knows these same boys will soon be fighting in the trenches, and you've got two really fantastic episodes of Doctor Who.

#2 Waters of Mars by Russell T Davies and Phil Ford

Even though "End of Time" is the end of Ten's life, this episode is really the capstone to his character arc. Ten has lost a lot and really functions best when he has a friend. But this episode finds a man who has lost all of his friends and has been traveling on his own for longer than is good for him. He's confronted with a fixed point in time and his first instinct is to get the hell out of Dodge, but he gets sucked into events. Once he's gotten to know these people a bit, it's impossible for him to just walk away and let history take his course. He's lost too many people to watch these men and women die. So he snaps. What's the point in being able to travel in time and space if you can't save everyone? He's angry and it shows. He's determined to save these people and show time that he CAN win.

In addition to the brilliance that IS the Time Lord Victorious, I think the parasite that travels through water is a pretty fantastic monster of the week. Water is everywhere and it's persistent and patient. It only takes one drop. The terror and feeling of inevitability is captured really well.

And then you have the wonderfulness that is Adelaide Brooke. I love that for this special we get an older woman as a the companion of the episode. You don't generally get to see older women in these action type of roles. I love the rapport she has with the Doctor, and I love that she is able to see how messed up he is and calls him out on it. When she kills herself to set history right, it's painful in all the right ways. DAMN YOU, RTD.

#1 The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit by Matt Jones

In the great debate as to which episode to show people first when you are trying to get someone into the show, many people suggest "Blink". Personally, I think that episode isn't the best choice just because it doesn't feature any of the main characters or give a sense of what the show is really about. I advocate for starting from the beginning with "Rose", but if you're worried that the cheesiness of some of the CGI in that episode might turn a person off of the show, I think this two-parter is a great first episode to show someone. You don't NEED much knowledge of the characters or the history of the show in order to enjoy the episode. It's a good action-adventure story that touches a bit on deeper themes with some great character moments. Of course, it's even better in context, but even on its own, I think it's a really enjoyable story.

The themes of faith and belief are really well handled without being harped on too much. The creature calls himself the Beast, clearly trying to play on old mythological fears. He knows things about those on the space station, and it unsettles the space station workers. But the point of this episode is that what the Doctor and Rose really believe in is each other. And it's not a groundless faith either. Bother parties comes through for the other in the end.

The secondary characters are SO well developed here. Even though we only get to spend two episodes with them, you feel like you have a really good sense of these people and even feel sad when Jackson sacrifices himself to save the others. But the main characters aren't neglected either as they have to struggle with the possibility of being stuck in this time and place without the Tardis. Rose also really gets to come into her own in this episode, leading the space station crew and problem solving while the Doctor is down in the pit.

Episodes That Are Notably Absent: Blink. I don't hate this episode, but after seeing it a few times and knowing when all the jumpy moments are and what the twists are... it just kind of loses its appeal. Then you factor in the reappearance of the Angels in series 5, and this episode just loses its novelty completely.

Vincent and the Doctor. Again, I don't hate this episode. I think it is beautifully done from a visual perspective and hits all the right emotional notes. Unfortunately, it just doesn't QUITE get there on the character front and the actual plot of the episode falls flat for me, so while I do think it's a good episode, it's not Top Ten quality for me.
Kali: dw :: team tardis :: turn left_thirty2flavors on December 11th, 2011 06:27 am (UTC)

Turn Left, HN/FOB and WOM are my top 3 and for the most part it is hard for me to choose between them. Midnight is so great, every time I watch it I'm on the edge of my seat even though I know exactly what's going to happen when, and TIP/TSP is really great and totally my favourite episode from a Doctor/Rose perspective.

ffffffff all of these episodes are so good.

IA about both Blink and VATD, they're good but they're not top 10 quality for me. VATD isn't even my favourite in s5 tbh, I mean it'd be in my list of top Moffat Era episodes but I don't really like it as much as a lot of other people do, I think because I was mad that the episode wiht so much character development used it all on Vincent and we still had Eleven and Amy as comparatively blank slates. It's a pretty beautiful episode regardless but that frustrated me.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 06:39 am (UTC)
My top three shift around a lot depending on my mood. I think the reason that TIP/TSP ultimately ended up as my number one this time around was because it's just less emotionally draining than the others. TIP/TSP is just like a really delicious comforting bowl of ice cream.

Yeah, my favorite in series 5 is probably The Lodger. LOL. IDGAF. IT WAS THE FIRST TIME I REALLY LIKED ELEVEN. (Oh how short lived that was...) I mean, it'd definitely make the top ten of Moffat Who, but Moffat Who is kid of slim pickings for me. ITA about how all the character development was focused on Vincent with a bit of Amy stuff shoved in at the end. It's still a good episode, but it's not without its flaws.
(no subject) - _thirty2flavors on December 11th, 2011 06:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sherrilina on December 11th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - phoenixrising06 on December 11th, 2011 10:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Hannah: Ten & Rose; i believe in herfirstofoct on December 11th, 2011 06:35 am (UTC)

Ugh TIP/TSP why are you so beautiful? I love that you have TIP/TSP and then WOM. Those two stories are so perfect. IDK if this was your reasoning, but TIP/TSP slightly beats out WOM for me because shipping is my first priority, then it is clearly Ten's character development.
Kali_thirty2flavors on December 11th, 2011 06:37 am (UTC)
that spacesuit heralds good things

which may explain why the knockoff in 42 heralds such bad things?
(no subject) - firstofoct on December 11th, 2011 06:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 06:44 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - firstofoct on December 11th, 2011 06:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - _thirty2flavors on December 11th, 2011 06:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - firstofoct on December 11th, 2011 06:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - _thirty2flavors on December 11th, 2011 06:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - firstofoct on December 11th, 2011 06:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - _thirty2flavors on December 11th, 2011 06:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - firstofoct on December 11th, 2011 07:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - _thirty2flavors on December 11th, 2011 07:04 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 07:15 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 06:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - firstofoct on December 11th, 2011 06:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - notemily on December 11th, 2011 08:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Diana: Last of the Timelordsbutterfly on December 11th, 2011 07:36 am (UTC)
Those five stories really do contain some of the best television I've seen, I think, not just in Doctor Who. Even thinking of the Doctor saying "water always wins" right now is giving me the shivers.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 07:40 am (UTC)
Guh. There is some really fabulous writing in these episodes. Like, "Midnight" is SO well done. Can you imagine how difficult it would have been to write all the overlapping voices and constructing the characters and the creature possessing Skye and the Doctor and as;ldkfjd;slkjf. Such good writing.
saz: star trek | tos castsazeracs on December 11th, 2011 07:58 am (UTC)
We are largely in agreement. These 5 are all favorites of mine as well!
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC)
sunnytyler001: ten and rosesunnytyler001 on December 11th, 2011 09:05 am (UTC)
Turn left is actually my favourite :)
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC)
I looove Turn Left, but it's just a tad too emotionally draining to be my #1.
wheatear: foxy doctorwheatear on December 11th, 2011 12:30 pm (UTC)
Interesting choice for no. 1! I love all these episodes, I'm just not sure I'd think to include TIP/TSP.

Midnight is one of my absolute favourites. Stellar writing all the way through.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 06:37 pm (UTC)
My #1 shifts around depending on what kind of a mood I'm in. TIP/TSP are always in my top 3, but they ended up on top when I was making this list, just because they're such enjoyable episodes. The weightier emotional stuff is fabulous and all, but idk. I can just watch TIP/TSP again and again. It's fun and familiar, but it's not shallow either.
Opal: TL: Rose and Donnashinyopals on December 11th, 2011 02:05 pm (UTC)

Turn Left still amazes me. I find what-if types scenarios fascinating and Rose and Donna are just so perfect in it. Seeing Rose as a sort of mystery Doctor-like figure is fascinating but you can also see where it all comes from. And knowing Donna doesn't need the Doctor to be awesome - she just needs a bit of prodding and a bit of faith in her.

WoM and Midnight I group together because they are both so amazing and flawless but I've watched Midnight twice and WoM once because OMG POOR TEN I JUST WANT TO CUDDLE HIM/MAKE HIM SEE A THERAPIST.

HN/FoB really show just how much shit Martha is putting up with and just how fantastic she is despite that. And I think you're right about Joan: I wouldn't be her friend these days, but she's an interesting character and not a bad person.

TIP/TSP are just awesome. I mean, they're shippy and cute, and also pretty gorgeous, but the ensemble cast is great. Also despite being as big an atheist as Rusty is, I like that faith and hope and there being something more aren't treated as something to dismiss or mock.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
Turn Left is why I don't HATE Donna's ending like a lot of people do. I mean, it still sucks and all. But Turn Left shows me that Donna will always have the potential to become amazing if she has the right support and encouragement.

WoM and Midnight are SO GOOD, but yeah, they're not the kind of episodes I want to watch when I want to unwind or anything.

Joan has definitely been socialized with racist ideas, but idk. I think she's still a great character. I love that moment where she calls John Smith out for standing by and watching while the boys are made to go to battle against the scarecrows.

TIP/TSP to me is just EVERYTHING that a standard Doctor Who (aka not a special finale or experimental structure) adventure SHOULD be. It's fun, exciting, slightly creepy, has good characters, let's the main characters shine, and touches on some deeper themes.
Naomi: Rose farewell by theseliarsfrelling_tralk on December 11th, 2011 02:41 pm (UTC)
Truthfully I was a bit let down by Vincent and the Doctor after all the fandom hype. I mean there were some really beautiful scenes, and the coda made me tear up. But the story itself wasn't anything that special, so I really couldn't see what everyone was raving about when it come to the episode as a whole. I've felt so alone in not considering it a masterpiece *g*

Human Nature/Family Of Blood are still my all-time favourite episodes and just outstanding all the way through IMHO. And YES at Turn Left, another amazing episode.

I still haven't gotten around to seeing Waters Of Mars :/ I ended up skipping all of the specials except for the End Of Time two-parter, and now I'm dithering over whether I should by the complete specials boxset unseen or not for Xmas
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 06:57 pm (UTC)
LOL YEAH. I LIKE VatD, to be sure. But I just don't get seeing it as the BEST episode of Doctor Who. Even in series 5, it probably ranks #3 for me. I mean, I think the episode gets Vincent right and achieves some good emotional bits. But the actual story is less than great. I don't quite get why people thing it's flawless or a masterpiece either.

WATERS OF MARS IS SO GOOD. L;SKDFJ;LDSKJFA The other specials are pretty meh for me. BUT WATERS OF MARS. OMG. It is so good. Although I think part of the reason I love it so much is that my expectations for it were so low. LOL. It was this random fall special and the previous two hadn't been that great, and it didn't have a lot of hype around it. But then I watched it and adored it.
Austin: allons-yjohnmayergirl23 on December 11th, 2011 02:59 pm (UTC)
WHAT A LOVELY TOP FIVE. Very similar to mine, except I would probably include The Unicorn and the Wasp because it is perfect lulz...also, Doomsday might be my favorite ever? I go back and forth.

I'm sure my Top Ten has jostled a bit since I last did it, and I would probably include The Girl Who Waited as well.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 06:58 pm (UTC)
I loooove the Unicorn and the Wasp, but it's not QUITE top 10 for me. Top 15? Probably. It is a LOT of fun.

(no subject) - johnmayergirl23 on December 11th, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Sylwia (sill-vee-uh): briar roseunnecessary_ on December 11th, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC)
I hope I like this show one day so I can just go on a SPREE of old entries from you. Thank goodness they're tagged.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
I hope you give the show a shot one of these days. It's not a perfect show, and I like to complain a lot about the newer series. But when Doctor Who is good, it's GOOD.
(no subject) - unnecessary_ on December 11th, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 07:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you agree with me because I tend to think my opinions are the Correct ones that everyone else should hold too. haha.
anna_sg1: dw - all companionsanna_sg1 on December 11th, 2011 05:17 pm (UTC)

But the BEST part of the scene is where Joan calls him out and says that all those people would not have died if the Doctor hadn't decided to hide there.

That bit where Joan just dismisses him with 'You may go.' or whatever is THE BEST! Almost like you can hear the ~BURN~. XD Wonderfully acted.

I feel bad for the Doctor, but that was deserved.

And IA, Martha deserves ALL THE AWARDS for everything she did/put up with during their time there. (Also in Blink.)
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC)
YEEEES. I mean, Joan is not without her issues as a character, but she also has a lot of really great moments. Joan is really strong in her own way. Those scenes where John Smith is struggling with his identity are just so perfect, I can't even. guuuuh
some blockheaded bracegirdle from hardbottle: dw - blue amynotemily on December 11th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
My choice of two-parter to get someone new into the show is Empty Child/Doctor Dances. It's fucking creepy, it has Captain Jack, and it introduces Nine and Rose.

I like this post.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
Empty Child/The Doctor Dances is pretty good to use to get people into the show since it doesn't require much pre-knowledge of the show. I'm 90% sure that I've actually used that two parter to get people into the show before too. They're solid episodes even if they aren't in my top ten.
obstinate, headstrong girl!: dw | donna noblezombie_boogie on December 11th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
Hey look at this, I don't vehemently disagree with any of your choices (except for Waters of Mars but I suppose we'll just always have to be at odds on that account, heh). "Turn Left" would actually be in my personal top five as well, and "Midnight" is sorely underrated (and it's one of the most genuinely scary episodes of the show). And of course the two-parters you included are some of the best two-parters the show has ever done.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC)
"Midnight" was such a surprise to me. I knew going in to the episode that it was a budget saver episode, so my expectations weren't high. But guh, the writing in Midnight is SO good. And it IS genuinely scary. I guess I just love movies and TV shows that explore group dynamics and mob mentality.
sherrilina: 10/Rose (Doctor Who)sherrilina on December 11th, 2011 08:08 pm (UTC)
Good choices! Turn Left is especially one of my favorites, I love AUs anyway, and its so gripping and powerful, for me the main downside is Billy's lisp (luckily she'd gotten back into the swing of her accent in time for later epps). And it goes to show that Memoryless!Donna is not useless...*sigh*

Blink is so overrated...
fauxkarenfauxkaren on December 11th, 2011 08:28 pm (UTC)
Blink really is overrated. I mean it's not BAD, but most of the initial appeal of it centers on the novelty of the time loop and the angels which have both be lost the most Moffat has written for the show.